Wine and chocolate

The approach of Easter brings to mind an inevitable association between this Christian holiday and chocolate. Gifts of chocolate eggs or chocolate bunnies symbolizing hope, life and fertility are an ancient European tradition that, having moved to many New World countries, has brought another version of chocolate back to its American origins.

What is chocolate?

Wine pairing, chocolate and wineThe word chocolate comes from xococ (sour) and atl (water) in the Nahuatl (Aztec) language.  In Mesoamerica it was the drink of gods and nobles, which, after the conquest, spread with great success to the rest of the world.

Chocolate is a complex food, with a great variety of flavors, aromas, and textures. The basic ingredient of chocolate is cocoa, which, pure and unmixed with sugars, has very beneficial components for the organism. It is a rich source of flavonoids, with cardioprotective effects and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Each type of chocolate is determined by different factors that impact its flavor, aroma, appearance, smoothness, and texture, for example, the cocoa content, the type of bean used, its terroir, fermentation, processing, the amount of fat (cocoa butter) and tannins.

Similarity between wine and chocolate

As with chocolate, health benefits are also attributed to moderate consumption of wine, especially red wine. Likewise, wine has a rich variety of flavors and aromas that depend on its terroir, fermentation, and processing, among other factors. Both have tannins, acidity, sweetness and are products that make for very interesting tastings.

Wine and chocolate pairing

Wine pairing, chocolate and wine

The pairing of both products has been controversial for a long time, however, it can be done successfully, either by complement or contrast. Not every wine goes well with every type of chocolate. As a general rule, the sweetness of the wine should be equal to or greater than that of the chocolate so that its bitterness does not stand out. The intensity of both products must be considered, since if we want to combine a very powerful wine with a chocolate with a very delicate flavor, the latter will go unnoticed. The same problem occurs in the opposite case, with a smooth wine and an intense chocolate.

If you want to better appreciate the sensations when trying this unique pairing, try to involve all five senses. When tasting several chocolates at the same time, start with the smoothest and finish with the one with the highest concentration of cocoa.

In the actual tasting, place a piece of chocolate on your tongue and let it melt. Pay attention to the qualities of acidity, astringency, bitterness, as well as the aftertaste. Then take a sip of wine and swirl it in your mouth. Feel its body and flavors. See if the combination of both is pleasant, if the flavors harmonize, stand out, enhance or cancel each other out.

Here are some pairing options for different types of chocolate. Those that incorporate other ingredients, nuts, mint, red fruits, etc. require other considerations.

White chocolate

It is cocoa butter with sugar and milk solids and is characterized by its sweetness, high fat content and smoothness.  It combines with fresh, fruity, and sweet white wines such as Riesling, sweet muscatels, or Chardonnay, which provide a touch of acidity to cut the fat of the chocolate.

Milk chocolate

With 60% cocoa butter and milk fat present in this chocolate, it takes a wine with acidity and soft tannin to sweep them away and balance them. Mild and fruity Merlot and Pinot Noir wines help to balance its sweetness.

Chocolate with 50% to 70% cocoa

A good harmonization can be given by a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Pinot Noir, or another medium-bodied red wine with a touch of wood.

Chocolate with 70% to 100% cocoa

 Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa harmonizes with a roasted and full-bodied wine, such as Bordeaux, Shiraz, Malbec, Zinfandel or Merlot. As the intensity of the chocolate increases, some of these wines could generate more bitterness, so a contrasting pairing with a semi-sweet or sweet Port, for example, is recommended. Fortified wines, with higher alcohol concentration and sweetness, compensate well for the intensity of the cocoa.

Taste them together

The best recommendation is to try different combinations of wine and chocolate and discover a new way to enjoy both products at the same time.


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